To commemorate Earth Day, April 22, 2013 two poems are featured here. Each of these just happen to be sonnets. The first one is written by New Orleans-born African American poet, Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935). Her first book of poems and short stories Violets and Other Tales was published in 1895.
The second sonnet is by Robert Pinsky, who was born in New Jersey in 1940 and served as Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 1997-2000. He is currently a professor of English and creative writing at Boston University.
I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that springs beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.
Afternoon sun on her back,
calm irregular slap
of water against a dock.
Thin pines clamber
over the hill’s top
nothing to remember,
Only the same lake
that keeps making the same
sounds under her cheek
and flashing the same color.
No one to say her name,
no need, no one to praise her,
only the lake’s voice—over
and over, to keep it before her.
–Robert Pinsky from The Want Bone (1990)